How to imagine what it’s like in today’s North Korea, this small country of about 25 million inhabitants, regularly referred to as the “last remaining Stalinist dictatorship”? Given the (apparent) absence of ordinary information, it is almost impossible to imagine anything other than the huge military parades where goose-stepping puppets march in gigantic public squares in icy winds, where “lobotomised” crowds shout out bellicose slogans in unison beneath the stern gaze of giant social-realism statues at whose foot roam poor humanoids in tatters, famished and oppressed. Compared to this, the East Germany I imagined very sad and grey when I was a child was a warm and civilised place.

Is it actually possible to have fun in North Korea? If so, who can? Everyone? How is it done? Doing what? At what stage of the day, year or life? How is “nightlife in Pyongyang”? What are rite-of-passage ceremonies and where are the centres of social activity? What do these tell us of the North Koreans? And of the Regime? About the way to live together that was defined since the creation of North Korea in 1945-48? What can this tell us about the evolution of a society we know so little?

Pierre-Olivier François

Pierre-Olivier François, author-director, has already filmed in DPRK six times and has directed the only film to date where high officials from both North and South recount together the history of their division, and the so far failed efforts to reunify (Divided Korea ARTE France & ALEGRIA PRODUCTIONS 2013). Though this film is officially forbidden in North Korea (and still not broadcasted in South Korea), Koreans who have seen it consider it to be honest and fair. If our critical analysis does not always suit them, the North Koreans respect the fact that we are conducting a long term work in and about their country.

Patrick Maurus

Patrick Maurus, author, translator, is a long-standing Korean expert. He speaks and reads Korean perfectly, especially the North Korean variations ; myself, Pierre-Olivier François, documentary film director (six shoots in DPRK between 2003 and 2016) for the last 15 years; for the filming we will be joined by Mathieu Pansard, experienced cameraman who participated 3 extended shoots in DPRK between 2011 and 2013 for our “Divided Korea”. That 2013 documentary, made by the same production team was essentially a geo-political film about the two Koreas, a view from the inside by the high-ranking protagonists of the North and the South.  Thanks to his long term academic work, Patrick Maurus has gained the respect and (relative) confidence of the cultural and political authorities in the DPRK. This relationship, along with the (relative) new easing of controls, are key to the unprecedented access to the DPRK we now expect.



Aired on RTS on February 17th, 2019 at 21:00


Aired on Arte on February 19th, 2019 at 22:50

Aired on Arte on February 22nd, 2019

Aired on Arte on February 26th, 2019

International Sales

ARTE Sales

Coproduction / presales

ARTE France

With the support of